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  1. This review accompanies the Special Issue on the subject of physical virology, which features work presented at the recent Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on this topic [...]

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2025
  2. We extend a recently proposed kinetic theory of virus capsid assembly based on Model A kinetics and study the dynamics of the interconversion of virus capsids of different sizes triggered by a quench, that is, by sudden changes in the solution conditions. The work is inspired by in vitro experiments on functionalized coat proteins of the plant virus cowpea chlorotic mottle virus, which undergo a reversible transition between two different shell sizes (T = 1 and T = 3) upon changing the acidity and salinity of the solution. We find that the relaxation dynamics are governed by two time scales that, in almost all cases, can be identified as two distinct processes. Initially, the monomers and one of the two types of capsids respond to the quench. Subsequently, the monomer concentration remains essentially constant, and the conversion between the two capsid species completes. In the intermediate stages, a long-lived metastable steady state may present itself, where the thermodynamically less stable species predominate. We conclude that a Model A based relaxational model can reasonably describe the early and intermediate stages of the conversion experiments. However, it fails to provide a good representation of the time evolution of the state of assembly of the coat proteins in the very late stages of equilibration when one of the two species disappears from the solution. It appears that explicitly incorporating the nucleation barriers to assembly and disassembly is crucial for an accurate description of the experimental findings, at least under conditions where these barriers are sufficiently large.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 28, 2024
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 11, 2024
  4. Abstract The exact mechanism controlling cell growth remains a grand challenge in developmental biology and regenerative medicine. The Drosophila wing disc tissue serves as an ideal biological model to study mechanisms involved in growth regulation. Most existing computational models for studying tissue growth focus specifically on either chemical signals or mechanical forces. Here we developed a multiscale chemical-mechanical model to investigate the growth regulation mechanism based on the dynamics of a morphogen gradient. By comparing the spatial distribution of dividing cells and the overall tissue shape obtained in model simulations with experimental data of the wing disc, it is shown that the size of the domain of the Dpp morphogen is critical in determining tissue size and shape. A larger tissue size with a faster growth rate and more symmetric shape can be achieved if the Dpp gradient spreads in a larger domain. Together with Dpp absorbance at the peripheral zone, the feedback regulation that downregulates Dpp receptors on the cell membrane allows for further spreading of the morphogen away from its source region, resulting in prolonged tissue growth at a more spatially homogeneous growth rate. 
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  5. The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has spurred unprecedented and concerted worldwide research to curtail and eradicate this pathogen. SARS-CoV-2 has four structural proteins: Envelope (E), Membrane (M), Nucleocapsid (N), and Spike (S), which self-assemble along with its RNA into the infectious virus by budding from intracellular lipid membranes. In this paper, we develop a model to explore the mechanisms of RNA condensation by structural proteins, protein oligomerization and cellular membrane–protein interactions that control the budding process and the ultimate virus structure. Using molecular dynamics simulations, we have deciphered how the positively charged N proteins interact and condense the very long genomic RNA resulting in its packaging by a lipid envelope decorated with structural proteins inside a host cell. Furthermore, considering the length of RNA and the size of the virus, we find that the intrinsic curvature of M proteins is essential for virus budding. While most current research has focused on the S protein, which is responsible for viral entry, and it has been motivated by the need to develop efficacious vaccines, the development of resistance through mutations in this crucial protein makes it essential to elucidate the details of the viral life cycle to identify other drug targets for future therapy. Our simulations will provide insight into the viral life cycle through the assembly of viral particles de novo and potentially identify therapeutic targets for future drug development. 
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  6. Internalization of clathrin-coated vesicles from the plasma membrane constitutes the major endocytic route for receptors and their ligands. Dynamic and structural properties of endocytic clathrin coats are regulated by the mechanical properties of the plasma membrane. Here, we used conventional fluorescence imaging and multiple modes of structured illumination microscopy (SIM) to image formation of endocytic clathrin coats within live cells and tissues of developing fruit fly embryos. High resolution in both spatial and temporal domains allowed us to detect and characterize distinct classes of clathrin-coated structures. Aside from the clathrin pits and plaques detected in distinct embryonic tissues, we report, for the first time, formation of giant coated pits (GCPs) that can be up to two orders of magnitude larger than the canonical pits. In cultured cells, we show that GCP formation is induced by increased membrane tension. GCPs take longer to grow but their mechanism of curvature generation is the same as the canonical pits. We also demonstrate that GCPs split into smaller fragments during internalization. Considering the supporting roles played by actin filament dynamics under mechanically stringent conditions that slow down completion of clathrin coats, we suggest that local changes in the coat curvature driven by actin machinery can drive splitting and internalization of GCPs. 
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